Volunteers’ Week spotlight on Wilts & Berks Canal

A Wiltshire volunteer is supporting a national campaign which encourages people to get more involved in their communities.

Howard Wilson, from Semington, is a member of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust which aims to restore the former waterway through the local countryside.

He joined the Melksham, Chippenham & Calne branch of the charity seven years ago and says his only regret is that he didn’t do it sooner.

Now he’s sharing his experiences in advance of national Volunteers’ Week, which runs from Monday 3 June to Sunday 9 June.

Howard, aged 66, worked for the Met Office for 37 years but was keen to stay active when he took early retirement.

He often walked along the Kennet & Avon Canal near his home, where the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has an information board at the former junction of the two waterways.

He often enjoyed canalboat holidays so he noted the details and attended his first work party just two weeks after retiring, and now plays an important role in his local branch.

Howard said: “When I first joined the charity I wasn’t sure what skills I would bring but I’ve found my management and IT experience has been very useful.

“I’m now involved in developing and maintaining the branch pages on the Trust website, and managing our photographic archive and social media. I also help to produce leaflets, posters and other materials.

“I’ve stayed involved with the physical restoration too, as a work party organiser responsible for supervising tasks for other volunteers.

“It keeps me busy but I thoroughly enjoy it”.

The charity has arranged for Howard to attend training courses on quad bikes and dumper trucks, as well as bricklaying and other courses.

This has enabled him to support a wide range of recent and ongoing projects, including the rebuilding of the dry dock and waiting wall at Pewsham Locks, the extension of the towpath towards Reybridge, and the ongoing maintenance of the section of canal which has already been restored.

Howard said: “I would encourage everyone to try volunteering if they have a few hours to spare. The team are great, and new members are always welcome.

“My only regret is that I wish I’d joined sooner!”

Potential work party volunteers can learn more about the restoration campaign by visiting the Pewsham Locks site next Tuesday and Thursday, 4 June and 6 June, from 10am-2pm. Places must be booked in advance by emailing dave.maloney@wbct.org.uk

The aim of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is to restore the waterway from the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham to the Thames & Severn Canal near Cricklade and the River Thames near Abingdon, connecting Chippenham, Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon.

Several sections have already been restored.

Visit www.wbct.org.uk

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